Ph.D. in Sociology

Expand your expertise. Continue your career in sociology by specializing in one of our five areas of focus. Prepare for a career in academia, research or industry.

Application Instructions

Ph.D. in Sociology

For students who wish to become critical analysts of social problems, NC State's graduate program in sociology offers excellent training that provides preparation for academic, research and applied careers. The 72-credit hour doctoral program is an intellectually stimulating and academically rigorous, yet supportive, environment.

 Doctoral students have the opportunity to: 

  • Pursue a wide range of research topics and interests
  • Receive top-notch methodological training 
  • Gain valuable teaching skills and experience
  • Collaborate on scholarly and applied research with our outstanding faculty and fellow graduate students

Admitted PhD students also benefit from a competitive award package that includes a 9-month stipend, health insurance, tuition remission, office space, and a travel funding allotment. Program alumni go on to succeed in academic and applied careers. 

Visit Us

We welcome prospective students at any time. Please, come tour our sociology offices and facilities, meet with current students and faculty, and get to know the NCSU community! Let us know you will be stopping by! Contact the Director of the Sociology PhD Program, Dr. Steve McDonald (, to schedule your visit.

Courses and Curriculum

The university requires 72 credit hours for the doctoral degree. Students are required to take and pass core courses in sociological theory and research methods (with various quantitative and qualitative options). Substantive coursework includes classes in your primary area of specialization and other area classes. The remaining credits are allocated to supervised research. 

See the NC State Course Catalog for the full list of graduate courses in Sociology. The projected course rotation is available here.  

Areas of Specialization

Doctoral students select one area of specialization. They must complete at least three courses in that area and a preliminary examination. Students are also encouraged to specialize in a secondary area. Please note that we are no longer accepting sociolinguistic students.

Click on the images below to learn more about the designated areas of specialization. 



Programmatic Milestones

Students complete several milestones en route to the PhD. Students entering without a master’s degree complete a journal article length thesis to obtain their MS degrees. They complete a comprehensive exam in their primary area of specialization. They develop a proposal for their dissertation research in consultation with faculty advisors. Finally, they defend their dissertation research to complete the degree. 

The program is designed such that students entering with an MS degree can complete the requirements in 4 years. Students entering without an MS degree may finish in 5 years. Detailed plans of study are available here

How to Apply

The Sociology Program offers a Ph.D, with several areas of focus available, in a department of outstanding accomplishments and great potential. Our faculty have a wide range of interests, including crime, law and social control; food and environment; inequality: class, race, and gender; and work and the global economy. We are no longer accepting sociolinguistic students. For information on the application process, as well as upcoming visitation dates, read the information below. 

A completed application includes transcripts, GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a writing sample. The Admissions Committee is unable to consider incomplete applications. 

Transcripts: You will need to upload unofficial transcripts of all your academic course work since high school, including each higher education institution you have attended. You only need to send official transcripts to the Graduate School if you are admitted.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE): We require the GRE. We do not have a cut-off point, although we feel most comfortable with combined verbal plus quantitative scores above 300. If your scores are not high, we may still admit you if other parts of your application are strong. The university’s code when submitting scores is 5496.

Letters of Recommendation: We require three letters of recommendation. The online process includes a form for your references to use. This form only has a small space for comments. Please ask your references to add a letter in which they provide more detail. Specifics about their experience with you are particularly informative. If you are not currently in school, please take care in selecting people to write these letters, as we need to know how you are likely to perform in an academic setting.

Personal Statement: This is usually a relatively brief statement of about two pages. We are especially interested to know how graduate training in sociology fits into your professional and intellectual goals and plans. Please indicate in your statement which of our program specializations you are most interested in and why. If you have a preference for working with specific professors, that would be helpful to include as well. 

Writing Sample: We pay very careful attention to the example of your writing that you submit. We look for organization, use of evidence, logic of argument, and quality of analysis. Typical submissions include course papers and senior thesis chapters. We strongly prefer writing samples of approximately 15-25 pages in length. If you would like us to read part of a large work, you could attach an explanation of how the part relates to the whole. 

The deadline for Fall admissions is January 1, with all supporting material so that the review committee can begin the review process in mid-January. We will ONLY accept materials submitted electronically. Please note that our program accepts full-and part-time students to begin their studies during the Fall semester only. We do not accept applications for Spring admissions. We are no longer accepting sociolinguistic students.

The Graduate School requires payment of a $75 application fee ($85 USD for International applicants). The Graduate School may waive the application fee based upon the applicant’s need and to achieve greater diversity for certain underrepresented groups. In requesting this waiver, you will need to contact the Graduate School (see contact information below).

To apply you may complete an on-line application for admission to graduate school. If you do the form electronically, however, you must still mail in your check for the application fee (currently $85.00 in U.S. currency drawn from a U.S. bank or from an international bank with a U.S. affiliate) and other parts of the application, enumerated below.

The online application can be accessed here.

An application for admission to our program must also include: 

  • Transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate studies
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores for the general tests
  • TOEFL scores for applicants who are not native English speakers. You can view our English Proficiency Requirements for more information.
  • Three letters of recommendation (we will be especially interested in reading the recommendation of a social scientist who can assess your promise as a social scientist).
  • A sample of your writing, such as an academic paper you have written.
  • A personal statement of the relationship of graduate training in sociology in our department for your long term interests, including your professional career intentions. 

After admission, official transcripts should be sent to:  
The Graduate School
North Carolina State University
1020 Main Campus Drive,
Room 2300A
Campus Box 7102
Raleigh, NC 27695-7102

If you cannot upload electronic recommendation letters, please send them to the Graduate School at: 

Start the Application Process

Financial Assistance

Teaching assistantships are available on a competitive basis through the Graduate School’s Graduate Student Support Plan (GSSP). Students are appointed to assistantships with the expectation of reappointment, assuming normal progress, for up to five years. Assistantships in the department are administered under general Graduate School rules for Financial Support. Assistantships provide tuition coverage for Fall and Spring, health insurance for the year, and a biweekly stipend from August to May.  Special funds for outstanding students and several types of minority scholarships are awarded by the Graduate School. 

In addition to teaching assistantships, our department typically allocates a fixed amount per graduate student per year (budget permiting) to support travel, such as to a professional meeting or conference.

More info:

Our support package for funded students is very competitive with those offered by other doctoral programs.   Assuming normal progress to degree, the packages are good for five years for students entering with a bachelor's degree (four years for students entering with a master's degree in sociology).  The support package includes:

  • Graduate assistantships that pay $16,000 (nine-month appointment) for students without a master's degree in sociology and $17,000 for students with a master's degree in sociology (or related discipline).  These assistantships have a 20 hour/week work obligation.  During typical assistantship appointments, students assist faculty with their courses and research. Students entering the program with a master’s degree are eligible to teach their own courses after one full year in the program. All other students may teach on their own after two years. 
  • Full tuition remission (both in-state and out-of-state).  Students are responsible for their own fees.
  • Fully-paid health insurance.
  • Office space in the recently renovated 1911 Building.  Every funded student has his/her own desk and computer.
  • Full access to departmental and college computer networks, including most popular analytical packages (Stata, R, SAS, SPSS, etc.)
  • Support for travel to professional conferences

Sociology Graduate Student Association (SGSA)

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